Later today, Venus Williams will attempt to reach the ninth Wimbledon singles final of her long and storied career, and if she makes it, it’ll stand out as unquestionably one of her greatest-ever achievements.
Success for the American and her sister Serena has become all too routine over the last 15 years at SW19; indeed, Venus has won Wimbledon five times on her own, just one behind her little sister – who she could yet face in Saturday’s final.
But today’s tie against Angelique Kerber will hold a special significance for Venus as it’s her first semi-final at the Grand Slam since 2009 and, at the age of 36, she’ll become the oldest Grand Slam semi-finalist since Martina Navratilova lost in the 1994 Wimbledon final aged 37.
What makes her run all the more impressive is the fact that, in 2011, Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that dries out the mouth and eyes, and can also sap strength and cause joint and muscle pain, coughing, and limb numbness.
Not long after her diagnosis, her world ranking plummeted all the way to 103 by the end of 2011 and few thought she stood any chance of winning another major again.
Now she’s back in the top ten, and just one win away from making the Wimbledon final all over again – against all the odds. Even now, she’s listed at 47/20 to beat Kerber in 888sport’s Wimbledon odds.
Yesterday, we saw Roger Federer create a slice of history by coming from two sets down to win against Marin Cilic – the only time he’s done so at Wimbledon. He remains on course for a shot at a record-breaking eighth title in London at the grand old age of 34.
Federer is likely to come up against Andy Murray in Sunday’s final in a mouthwatering re-run of 2012’s final. Murray continues to fly the flag for Britain, in search of the third Grand Slam of his career – and a place in the pantheon of tennis greats.
The likes of Federer, Murray and Serena Williams are without question great champions; players who will be talked about and revered long after they’ve retired.
But Venus is already the star of this year’s Wimbledon. She’s defied age, excruciating health problems and a long line of critics to get back to close to her best.
Her opponent today Kerber is eighth years younger at 28, and has a 3-2 advantage over Williams in their head-to-head record.
But that’s nothing compared to what Venus has overcome to get this far. Don’t bet against her holding aloft the women’s Wimbledon trophy this Saturday afternoon.